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A3-1: We Are Wellness – Peer-Led Approaches to Advancing Access with 2SLGBTQ+ Youth

2SLGBTQ+ youth in Toronto experience higher rates of suicidality, depression, addiction and social isolation, and increased inequalities in income, employment and housing security (Prokopenko & Kevins, 2020).  These realities illuminate a pressing need for affirming approaches in the children and youth mental health sector to reduce social inequities and facilitate timely access to critical health resources.

We Are Wellness at Lumenus Community Services seeks to advance equity and access for 2SLGBTQ+ youth communities through an innovative, peer-led holistic wellness program developed by, and for, 2SLGBTQ+ youth (12-18) and transitional-aged youth (16-25) in Toronto.  Being entirely peer-led, WAW puts agency back into the hands of youth and creates inclusive spaces for youth to access life-saving health resources and peer mentorship connections.  The wraparound approach provides youth with opportunities to participate in peer-led wellness workshops, receive peer mentorship and navigation assist to resources, and access skill-building trainings and employment opportunities for the upcoming program year.  In Year One, the WAW program successfully delivered 25 workshops to over 100 youth in Toronto and continues to grow, with previous participants returning as Peer Workers – increasing youth access to meaningful employment opportunities.

In this workshop participants will hear directly from youth WAW Peer Mentors and Facilitators.  Utilizing professional and lived experiences, Presenters will provide insights into the lived realities of 2SLGBTQ+ youth in Toronto.  Participants will examine concrete strategies to advance equity and access via youth engagement and the social determinants of health, and through group activities will identify effective strategies to implement this unique approach in diverse settings.


Riven Thorne (they/them) is currently a 2SLGBTQ+ Peer Youth Mentor on the We Are Wellness team at Lumenus. They have been at Lumenus in Peer and Harm Reduction roles since 2017, finding new ways to bring lived experience into peer roles within the 2SLGBTQ+ community. They have also spoken on multiple panels surrounding experiences of queer and transness as a youth in the GTA.

Rachel Gunasingham (she/they) currently works in the role of 2SLGBTQ+ Peer Mentor with We Are Wellness for 2SLGBTQ+ Transitional-Aged Youth.  Rachel identifies as a racialized, queer person. Her passion for Social Services began at a young age as she navigated the challenges in receiving support as a service user. As a recent graduate from Seneca College’s Social Service Worker Program, Rachel followed her passion and took steps in her career to support 2SLGBTQ+ Youth in fields such as Transitional Housing Services, Gender Affirming Care, and Peer Navigation.

Joey Campbell (he/him) is a Peer Facilitator for the We Are Wellness Program. Joey participated in the We Are Wellness program and eventually applied and became a Peer Facilitator himself. Joey is a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and works with other queer youth. Joey has completed a co-op placement at a Toronto alternative middle school and gained experience as an educator.  Currently, he is pursuing a Bachelor in Social work at York University.

Shivana Ramsingh (she/they) is a registered Social Worker and Manager of Community-Based Mental Health at Lumenus Community Services. She oversees the reachOUT and We Are Wellness Programs for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and their families in Toronto.  With over 20 years of professional experience in the fields of mental health, trauma, holistic wellness, anti-oppression, and addictions and recovery, Shivana has worked extensively with youth, 2SLGBTQ+, BIPOC, (dis)abled, womyn, newcomers, and refugee communities across the globe, to support and enhance the sustainable health and wellbeing of the individuals, families and communities she serves.



A3-2: Intersectionality and Peer Mentor Work with Youth Experiencing Homelessness and Complex Mental Health Needs

In this workshop, we will be exploring the nuances of Peer Support Work and intersectionalities of youth experiencing homelessness and complex mental health needs, which necessitates a focus on flexible, youth-driven care and supports. This presentation will examine some of the challenges, barriers, and facilitators to initiating and sustaining meaningful peer support work and the people who do the work.

The Good Shepherd Youth Services Mental Health Program would like to share how their Mental Health Peer Support Workers build connection with youth experiencing homelessness, who have complex mental health needs, and/or identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. This presentation will discuss use of ‘self’ in working with young people by creating meaningful social connections through shared experiences, while being mindful of compounding identities that can make a youth’s situation complex and unique. In this presentation we will be exploring how critical intersectionality is to peer support work and highlighting the need to resist boxing youth into one category of social location. Through this work we can identify how different identities impact one another and create entirely new experiences, and how validating and exploring these experiences builds resilience and care. This presentation will also consider practical steps to take if your organization is initiating or attempting to sustain peer support work, including the role leadership and organizations have to play, team dynamics, and the need for ongoing and supportive supervision and connection to others who do peer support work.


Saph Jones (they/them) is the 2SLGBTQ+ Mental Health Clinician at Good Shepherd Youth Services. They completed their BSW at Toronto Metropolitan University. In their current position Saph facilities conversations of growth for the 2SLBGBTQ+ population in Hamilton and strives to effect change in how we cope with mental health challenges in a positive way.

Jennifer Mulé (she/her) is the Clinical Manager at Good Shepherd Youth Services. She completed her MSW at McMaster University and has held a variety of roles supporting children and youth in the Hamilton area over the last 12 years, focusing on child and youth mental health, housing and homelessness, youth engagement, system planning, and research.

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